6 Jul 2011

Cameron wants phone hacking inquiry

David Cameron calls for a public and independent inquiry into “disgusting” phone-hacking allegations as Rupert Murdoch backs former NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks.

The Prime Minister backed calls for a public investigation into allegations of phone hacking by journalists, and into the original police probe into the scandal.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said inquiries should take place after the current police investigation concludes so as not to jeopardise the findings.

“We are no longer talking here about politicians and celebrities, we are talking about murder victims, potentially terrorist victims, having their phones hacked into,” Mr Cameron said.

“It is absolutely disgusting, what has taken place, and I think everyone in this House and indeed this country will be revolted by what they have heard and what they have seen on their television screens.”

Mr Cameron said there were two “vital areas” that needed to be considered – why the original police inquiry failed to “get to the bottom of what happened”, as well as the behaviour, practices and ethics of journalists and media organisations.

News International, the publisher of the News of the World, today welcomed MPs’ calls for a wide-ranging public inquiry. Read the statement in full here.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the police inquiry may take “some years” and insisted it was “possible to start the process now”.

Political Editor Gary Gibbon has been told by a source in the Metropolitan Police that the police operation could take as long as two years, meaning a significant delay to an inquiry.

News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch said allegations that staff at the News of the World hacked phones and paid police were “deplorable and unacceptable” as he backed Rebekah Brooks to continue as News International chief executive.

In a statement Mr Murdoch said: “I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively co-operate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’ leadership.

“We are committed to addressing these issues fully and have taken a number of important steps to prevent them from happening again.”

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David Cameron is I am told, considering having a look at how self-regulation works in the newspaper world – answer: it doesn't, blogs Political Editor Gary Gibbon.

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Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson earlier confirmed that News International had given police documents which include information relating to “inappropriate payments to officers”.

In a statement, Sir Paul said evidence handed over by the newspaper publisher last month suggested a “small number” of officers were involved.

It follows allegations that former Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson “condoned” payments to police while he was editor at the News of the World.

Emergency debate

News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks faced renewed calls for her resignation during a three-hour emergency Commons session.

Opening the debate, MP Chris Bryant told the House that if Rebekah Brooks “had a single shred of decency, she would resign.”

The phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World revealed an organisation that had “completely lost sight of any idea of decency”, he said, as MPs welcomed an inquiry.

Call for James Murdoch suspension

Labour’s Tom Watson called for News International chairman James Murdoch to be suspended from office in the wake of the scandal.

Mr Watson told MPs during the emergency debate that police should investigate “an attempt to pervert the course of justice”.

“James Murdoch should be suspended from office while the police now investigate what I believe was his personal authorisation to plan a cover-up of this scandal,” he said.

Mr Watson added: “James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks now have to accept their culpability and they will have to face the full force of the law.

“Their behaviour to the most vulnerable, their knowledge of law breaking and their failure to act, their links with the criminal underworld, their attempts to cover up law breaking and pay for people’s silence tell the world all we need to know about their character.”

Interviewed on Channel 4 News, the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said his predecessor had published a report in 2006 highlighting the growing trade in personal data and calling for prison sentences to be available for those found guilty of breaches of the Data Protection Act. But neither the press nor Parliament had done anything about it.

7/7 families targeted

Several bereaved family members of the 7 July 2005 terrorist attacks in London have been told by police their phones may have been hacked by journalists at the News of the World.

It came after police confirmed that the parents of murdered Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were also contacted by officers. On Monday allegations emerged that the phone of murder victim Milly Dowler had been hacked.

Since the hacking allegations came to light, major companies have pulled adverts in the News of the World. Halifax, Virgin Holidays, Vauxhall, The Co-operative Group, Mitsubishi and Ford have suspended advertising in the newspaper pending the investigation.

Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the Sunday tabloid who is alleged to have illegally accessed Milly’s voicemail messages after she went missing, has apologised for any hurt he caused.

News International executives say they have uncovered evidence about who allegedly asked private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to illegally access the murdered schoolgirl’s voicemail messages after she went missing in 2002.

Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 along with former News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman for illegally hacking into mobile phones.